MANILA – With tensions in fishing grounds borders reemerging, the Philippine government is now considering a proposed fisheries agreement with Taiwan.
Should the agreement prepared by the trade representatives of the two countries be reached, protocols will then be set on the arrest and detention of fishermen who trespass the two countries’ borders.
“The mechanism will provide guidelines for incidents at sea,” Philippine Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said in a press conference.
“President Benigno Aquino’s office is now reviewing the proposed fishing agreement and will decide within the year whether or not to sign it,” Jose added, hoping that the deal will make ‘talks about sea incidents in the seas an easier manner.’
The draft deal has been initiated after heated fisheries-related issues between the two countries have been emerging in recent months.
Two years ago, a Filipino coast guard shot dead a 65-year-old Taiwanese fisherman who has intruded the Batan Island group’s seas. Homicide charges were then filed to the eight Filipino coast guards involved in the incident. To the coast guards defense, they only opened fire as the fishing vessel rammed their ship. Taiwan, however, regarded to the shooting as a ‘cold-blooded’ murder. As of now, a local court is still in the process of reaching a resolution.
And just recently, a Filipino coast guard ship attempted to arrest a Taiwanese fishing vessel which has encroached the Batan Island’s seas. In this incident, however, a Taiwanese coast guard intervened and the two exchanged heated talks over radio. After a four-hour standoff, the Taiwanese vessel eventually left Batan’s waters.
Jose acknowledged that there is indeed an overlap in the territories of the Philippine and Taiwan seas.
The draft fisheries deal, however, could not define needed clearer borders as Philippines and Taiwan are not allowed to engage on the matter as governing states. This is because China considers Taiwan its province.
“It will not be an agreement on maritime boundary delimitations,” Jose said, recognizing that no formal diplomatic relations between the two countries are allowed to discuss such matter.
Furthermore, the ‘One-China policy’ is holding back diplomatic relations with Taiwan. Hence, the Philippines is handling the matter through the Manila Economic and Cultural Office and not through the Department of Foreign Affairs. Taiwan, for their part, has the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office to deal with the matter.
“(We have a One-China policy)…that’s why we are limiting our discussions with Taiwan on the fisheries agreement without touching on maritime boundaries,” Jose said.